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5 COVID-friendly side hustles

Looking for a little extra income during the pandemic? Here’s some expert advice on how to do it.

If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that employment isn’t guaranteed, and old rules of thumb like saving six month’s worth of expenses might not cut it in an actual state of emergency.

Now that we’re on month nine of the pandemic — with no clear end in sight — your bank account could be hurting and you may be looking for ways to make a passive income.

If you’ve been out of work for a while, taking up a side hustle can help you make ends meet until you can find a more permanent solution. But even if you’re still employed, an extra income stream through a side gig could provide some financial cushion so you can sleep better at night. While the pandemic has decreased foot traffic in some stores and restaurants, there are other industries that are booming. Here are some side hustle opportunities to consider during the pandemic:

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Dabble in digital freelance jobs

Online freelancing and consulting is a hot market right now as more and more people embrace remote work, according to Nick Loper, founder of the Side Hustle Nation podcast. Some companies are even planning to integrate working from home on a permanent basis.

Depending on the skills you possess and the experience you have under your belt, freelancing could be a nice extra stream of income if you’re looking for a side hustle idea. To give you an idea of numbers, here are some average hourly rates for different freelance professions, according to PayScale data:

Of course, these are only averages — someone with years of resume experience working in a specialized field could charge much more for their services. If you’re looking to supplement your day job, freelancing can be a great opportunity with a high earning potential.

Freelancing is also something you can start doing quickly. “It really only takes one client to validate that, ‘Oh, this is a skill [that is in] demand,’” says Loper. From there, you can build your client base from referrals and testimonials while turning it into a profitable side hustle.

When it comes to getting the word out about your new online business, don’t be afraid to reach out to your existing network. I started my freelance writing career as a side hustler, and one of the first ongoing assignments I landed came from promoting services on my personal Facebook page. An old teammate on my high school cheerleading squad hired me to write for her company’s blog.

If you’re trying to dip your toes into the freelance pond, Upwork or Fiverr might be good places to test the waters and find a new gig. Fiverr is a freelance marketplace where you can create a profile and list your services. Upwork is a platform where you can bid on assignments posted from clients. After building a portfolio, you can move away from these sites to build your online business independently.

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Deliver food, drinks, and groceries… from a safe distance

The demand for ridesharing has dropped, and this isn’t surprising considering riding in Uber and Lyft puts you within six feet of another person, which is less than what’s recommended to stop the spread of COVID-19. Similarly, hustles in the travel, wedding, and event industries have taken a major hit during the pandemic, according to Loper.

There is one sector that’s seeing fast expansion: food and grocery delivery services. Earlier this year, Instacart, a personal grocery shopping and delivery service, announced plans to add 300,000 new drivers to meet a surge in demand. If you have some extra free time and want to make an additional income, these delivery service companies may be the right option for you.

Uber Eats, Postmates, and Grubhub are other apps you can sign up for to do food delivery for a side hustle. Each app gives you either a cut of the pickup and delivery fee, or calculates earnings based on the miles you drive, plus you keep the tips. Instacart, DoorDash, Postmates, and Grubhub have also rolled out contactless delivery so you can maintain a safe distance from customers while making extra cash.

Flip items for a profit

Are you able to see the beauty (and/or profit opportunity) in discarded items? Jason Butler, the founder of the blog My Money Chronicles, has been flipping items found at thrift stores and reselling them on eBay, Poshmark, and Mercari as a side hustle for the last several years. On average, he makes $1,000 per month, and April and May were two of his busiest months to date.

“Flipping is a good pandemic [side] hustle because many people aren’t comfortable going back to stores yet in person. People are spending more money online because of that,” says Butler.

To stay safe, you should always disinfect used items before bringing them into your home. Items in good enough condition you might be able to sell without putting in any elbow grease. Items that have a bit of wear and tear you can gussy up before putting back on the market.

Butler says that some resellers are happy to list products for double what they paid for them. But to maximize profit, he shoots to price items for three to four times the amount of his purchase. “I sell a lot of sports-related items such as shoes and jerseys. I’m typically able to get them for under $10, and it’s very easy to sell jerseys for $35-$45,” says Butler.

Besides eBay, Poshmark, and Mercari, he also sells on Facebook Marketplace, Poshmark, OfferUp, and Craigslist. If you’re not sure what items to flip, Butler’s list of 100 best items to sell on eBay might give you some good ideas.

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Roll up your sleeves and do some handiwork

Another side hustle that almost anyone could do is handiwork, such as housekeeping or yard work. Loper hosted Erica Krupin, who started a pet waste removal business called Kroopin’s Poopin Scoopin, on the Side Hustle Nation podcast. Although not particularly glamorous, it’s something she can still do without much contact with the client. And there are recurring clients who need the service, even during the pandemic.

Ultimately, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel or come up with a groundbreaking new idea, especially if you already have limited time while juggling a full-time job and homeschooling.

Families who have a lot on their plate might need help doing simple tasks like pulling weeds, mowing the lawn, or picking up dog waste. Offering these services could be a low-stress way to put extra money in the bank.

Sell your knowledge or your creations

The ecommerce industry is exploding. In the second quarter of 2020, Amazon reported a 40% increase in net sales, while Walmart ecommerce grew 97%. You can get in on the action at Amazon by becoming an Amazon Seller, listing products you create or reselling items with a markup.

Plus, there are many other ecommerce platforms like Etsy, Shopify, and Sellfy where you can sell digital and physical products. Perhaps you’ve picked up knitting while social distancing and you enjoy teaching other beginners. You can sell the fruits of your labor and an ebook with instructions on how to do it yourself — that’s two income streams from one new hobby.

If you can come up with clever and creative sayings for designs, Loper says that print-on-demand is another fun way to earn extra income. CafePress and Teespring are print-on-demand sites that provide products — e.g., t-shirts, socks, baby onesies, and more — that you can customize with designs or quotes and sell for a profit.

The best part is you don’t have to worry about manufacturing or fulfillment. Print-on-demand means customers place orders and each platform takes care of printing and delivering the products for you.

One factor to compare before finding a home for your online store is the fee that’s charged to sell items on the platform. Etsy, for example, has a listing fee of $0.20 and a transaction fee of 5%. Shopify has monthly plans starting at $29 per month. On Teespring and CafePress, each customizable product has a base price and you keep the markup.

For example, the base price for a basic t-shirt on Teespring is $10.57 if you sell 99 shirts or less. The recommended retail price per shirt is $21.99, so you could make $11.42 profit on each sale.

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When looking for new opportunities, watch out for scams

Hustle hard, but hustle smart. In trying times when people are struggling, scammers tend to see an opportunity in unsuspecting victims.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warns to watch out for a surge of “work-at-home business” ads and phone calls during the pandemic. People might claim they can show you how to work from home with no experience after you pay for coaching, software, or certifications.

If a job opportunity sounds too good to be true, it likely is. Legitimate opportunities like Uber Eats, Postmates, or platforms like Shopify or eBay don’t make you leap over paywall to join. Doing a bit of research before you sign up for a job opportunity can save you from getting swindled.

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About Taylor Medine

Taylor Medine is a personal finance writer who's covered all things money for the last six years. Her work has appeared on Business InsiderCredit KarmaMSNUSA Today, and much more.

Read more by Taylor Medine

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Haven Life is a customer-centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our editorial policy

Haven Life is a customer centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our content is created for educational purposes only. Haven Life does not endorse the companies, products, services or strategies discussed here, but we hope they can make your life a little less hard if they are a fit for your situation.

Haven Life is not authorized to give tax, legal or investment advice. This material is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or investment advice. Individuals are encouraged to seed advice from their own tax or legal counsel.

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